Tonight’s Republican presidential debate on foreign policy managed to touch on a number of important issues, including Iran’s nuclear threat and the prospect of defense cuts. But the most significant moment of the evening came when Newt Gingrich took a stand on immigration that undermined the assumption that he can be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. By stating his support for a policy of selective amnesty for illegal immigrants in this country, the former speaker may have brought his stay atop the GOP field to a close.
Gingrich came into the evening riding high in the polls with some surveys showing that he was now getting much of the Tea Party support that once belonged to Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann during their brief moments at the head of the field. Though Gingrich was right to point out that it is unrealistic and unjust to speak of expelling all 11 million illegals, by stating his support for a path to allow them to stay in the country, he gave Romney the opening he needed to remind conservatives that he is actually to the left on them on a number of major issues.
Debate ends. Winner: Romney. Loser: Gingrich who, despite strong performance, gives Romney big opening to savage him on amnesty for illegals. As for the others: Bachmann does well. Perry doesn’t make a mistake but Cain flounders as usual. Ron Paul probably helped himself by getting so much time to answer though he was clearly out of step with his own party.
China just getting mentioned as a throwaway line in final questions.
Paul’s rationalization of the Taliban is disgusting. He forgets they were the 9/11 killers hosts and defenders.
Romney points out that Perry’s no-fly zone makes no sense because Assad isn’t bombing his people, he’s shooting them. No drive zone for tanks? Also makes good points about convincing Alawites to abandon Assad. Again, sounds presidential and knowledgeable.
Romney finally gets a chance to talk about American exceptionalism and the contrast between his vision of an American century and Obama’s globalist view. Read More
As we’ve seen from the string of flavor-of-the-week GOP candidates, the race is still unpredictable, and a single debate can make a big difference. In spite of that, here are some predictions and things to look for from the top candidates tonight:
Here’s a report filled with good news. According to the United Nations’ annual report on the global AIDS epidemic, released yesterday, more people than ever are living with HIV, largely due to greater access to treatment. At the end of 2010, an estimated 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide, up 17 percent from 2001. This reflects the continued large number of new HIV infections and a significant expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy, which has helped reduce AIDS-related deaths, especially in more recent years.
At the same time, the number of people dying of AIDS-related causes fell to 1.8 million in 2010, down from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s. A total of 2.5 million deaths have been averted in low- and middle-income countries since 1995 due to antiretroviral therapy being introduced, according to new calculations by UNAIDS. Much of that success has come in the past two years when rapid scale-up of access to treatment occurred; in 2010 alone, 700 000 AIDS-related deaths were averted.
Mitt Romney comes off as the kind of person whose idea of a crazy time is wearing linen after Labor Day. So his People magazine interview about his crazy teenage years is pretty much what you would expect:
PEOPLE: Have you ever had a beer?
Romney: “Never had drinks or tobacco. It’s a religious thing. I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once, as a wayward teenager, and never did it again.”
The congressional supercommittee’s failure to bridge the vast divide between the two parties on taxes and spending is being attributed by many in the mainstream media to one side alone. As the New York Times put it in a typically partisan editorial published this morning, “the only reason the committee failed was because Republicans refused to raise taxes on the rich.” The distorted and bias interpretation of a principled refusal on the part of some in the GOP to enact job-killing tax increases in the middle of an economic downturn is bad enough. But it also ignores the fact that a key element of the Democratic base was just as opposed to compromise as the Tea Party.
While the Grey Lady was gnashing its teeth over the standoff, some liberal groups were rejoicing. One such organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, released a statement saying, “no deal is better than a bad deal.” According to the NCJW, a stalemate is better than a deal that would have begun the necessary task of entitlement reform without which the nation is doomed to insolvency.
In the wake of the collapse of the so-called supercommittee, President Obama said, “There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voice of reason and compromise.”
Of course they did. Anyone who holds views different than the president is unenlightened, unreasonable, and unpatriotic. By now it’s a broken record.
Liberals often derided the Bush administration for what they claimed was the poor quality of its judicial nominees who were widely declared by the media to be chosen largely for their politics rather than any other consideration. But it turns out that far more of Barack Obama’s choices for the federal bench have been rejected as “unqualified” by the liberal vetting group that was considered a thorn in the side of George W. Bush.
The New York Times reports today that the American Bar Association, which has been roundly criticized for conservatives for decades for its liberal bias, has trashed more of Obama’s nominees in just three years than in did in the entire eight years of the Bush administration. The number of Obama’s choices rejected also exceeds the total that were deemed unworthy during the Clinton presidency. Considering that this stern verdict comes from an organization clearly sympathetic to Obama’s politics and judicial philosophy, these figures speak volumes about the poor quality of those tapped for the bench by the Democrats in the last three years and the abysmal standards by which they were held by the president.
Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the latest Republican presidential debate from Washington, D.C. sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. So tune in to CNN at 8 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the GOP contenders have at it yet again on foreign policy and national security issues.
Tonight’s latest installment of America’s most popular political reality show will give us another chance to evaluate the Republican presidential candidates’ foreign policy credentials. But while even posing that question is enough to shrink Herman Cain’s dwindling poll numbers, the forum provided by the American Enterprise Institute (and broadcast by CNN at 8 p.m.) will enable us to see whether some of them have made progress towards enunciating a coherent vision of national defense and America’s place in the world.
Rather than a sidebar to the election, this topic may do more to define the race than many would have thought. While gaffes on domestic policy might be laughed off, as Cain has seen, a failure to show even a basic understanding of life and death issues that will face a commander-in-chief has the potential to sink any would-be president.
You have to give French President Nicolas Sarkozy credit: So far, he’s the only international leader to demand the world put its money where its mouth is on Iran. For weeks, world leaders have been lining up to say how disastrous an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be; indeed, as Jonathan noted last week, the Obama administration frequently seems more interested in preventing Israeli military action than in preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Yet Sarkozy is the first to take that opposition to its logical conclusion: If the world actually wants to prevent an Israeli strike, it needs to demonstrate that Iran’s nuclear program can be stopped without military action. And that means imposing truly crippling sanctions on Tehran.
The new sanctions announced by the U.S., Britain and Canada yesterday are all welcome; all will genuinely increase the pressure on Iran. But they fall well short of what Sarkozy proposed: for “the United States, Japan and Canada and other willing countries to take the decision to immediately freeze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank [and] stop purchases of Iranian oil.”
This certainly isn’t the first terror case handled by the NYPD that’s sparked concern over entrapment. Back during the Herald Square bomb case, the claims were never substantiated, and a jury found the perp guilty.
From the sound of it, the NYPD has more than enough for a strong case against Jose Pimental. But the New York Times is still raising the question:
It’s understandable if many chose to pass on Frank Rich’s rambling attempt to rekindle the flame of speculation around who was really responsible for killing John F. Kennedy.
But the article, which relies mostly on pure tendentious fantasy (even using Stephen King’s science fiction reimagining of the crime as a source), is still worthwhile as a revealing expression of the pathologies of the left. And while Rich proclaims the assassination to be relevant to current events, he’s not entirely wrong. Only the parallels are not what he thinks.
In the wake of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report on Iran’s nuclear program, some action by the United States to ratchet up the pressure on Tehran was expected. But yesterday’s announcement that the Treasury Department has named the Central Bank of Iran and the entire Iranian banking system as a “primary money laundering concern” was a purely symbolic gesture that will do nothing to cripple the ability of the Islamist regime to continue on its destructive path. Though accompanied by sanctions on Iran’s oil and nuclear industry and other measures that may reduce its access to foreign capital and credit, the package falls far short of the sort of crippling measures that might actually shake the ayatollahs’ faith in their ability to survive.
For all of the tough talk emanating out of Washington about Iran and its dangerous drive for a military application of nuclear power these days, the Obama administration still appears reluctant to go straight to the heart of the problem and to prohibit transactions on Iran’s Central Bank or a full-scale ban of oil imports and transactions with its oil industry. Rather than this announcement being a sign the U.S. is finally undertaking a serious course of action on the issue, this symbolic swipe at Iran is more likely to reaffirm Tehran’s belief they have nothing to fear from the United States.
In two new polls out today, Newt Gingrich has not been able to replicate his surprise tie with Romney in last week’s New Hampshire Magellan Strategies poll. The new American Research Group Inc. poll shows the former Speaker trailing Romney, 22 percent to 33 percent. And the Suffolk poll has an even larger divide – Romney leads Gingrich, 41 percent to 14 percent.
But it’s unclear if the Magellan poll was just a fluke, or if Gingrich is starting to fade. It seems likelier that it’s the former. The dates of all three polls overlapped slightly, and Gingrich didn’t make any recent missteps in New Hampshire that could have hurt his numbers. He also isn’t dropping off in national polls, and today’s Quinnipiac survey has him actually leading Romney, 26 to 22.
Well, that didn’t take long.
On Sunday, I wrote that Newt Gingrich possesses an active and creative, if impulsive and sometimes unrestrained, mind; that Gingrich understands, at least intellectually, his past weaknesses, including his lack of discipline and propensity to use strident, even apocalyptic, language; and that I had my doubts whether a man at Gingrich’s age can re-make himself. “But Gingrich now has his chance to prove me, and others like me, wrong. Stay tuned.”
A day later Gingrich, in a speech in New Hampshire, referred to the Congressional Budget Office as a “reactionary, socialist institution” which “does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.”
As usual, the conventional wisdom has it wrong. The supercommittee didn’t fail; it succeeded in what it was intended to do, which was provide cover for an increase in the debt ceiling through the end of Obama’s term. I explore this theme in today’s New York Post:
It was there just to get us to Thanksgiving. Thursday is Thanksgiving. The supercommittee’s work is done.
The lament that the supercommittee was unable to make a deal is ridiculous — because the supercommittee itself was the deal.
Going forward, the 12 members will find themselves under somewhat unpleasant assault for not having saved America from itself. At the same time, some of them will be showered with praise and increased campaign contributions for having refused to sell out their own camp’s principles.
The question now is who will benefit politically from the supercommittee’s success-that-looks-like-a-failure. The first poll on the matter, by Quinnipiac, says the public blames Republicans more than Democrats by a margin of 46-38, which isn’t that dramatic a spread. It appears the White House thinks it can make hay out of this, but that is a tricky proposition. President Obama may want to run against a do-nothing Congress the way Harry Truman did. But the more Obama concentrates his rhetorical attention on how the system is broken, the weaker he may come to seem to voters, who ordinarily don’t accept the contention of presidents that their power and authority are insufficient to get the job done.
Occupy Wall Street activists have been claiming victory over the “narrative” recently, but according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, most Americans are simply ignoring them:
A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows that the “Occupy” movement has failed to capture the attention of a majority of Americans, indicating either ambivalence toward it or lack of interest.
The poll finds that 56 percent of Americans surveyed are neither supporters nor opponents and 59 percent say they don’t know enough to have an opinion about the movement’s goals.
The survey, however, does show an increase from 20 percent to 31 percent in disapproval of the way the protests are being conducted.
Yesterday, I wrote that at its best, conservatism is open to self-examination, reflection and refinement. Now’s my chance to put it into effect.
On Monday, Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” responded to a comment made by Newt Gingrich during the weekend regarding Occupy Wall Street. I thought then, and I think now, that Brzezinski’s comments (as well as those by Jeffrey Sachs) were inappropriate and overdone. I’m still mystified by them. But in my comments about Brzezinski, I crossed a line, moving away from using the incident to highlight the emotional investment liberals have in OWS to targeting Brzezinski. Being tough in offering a critique is one thing; being gratuitous is another. There’s quite enough of that going on these days in political discourse without me adding to it.
As Jonathan noted yesterday, the Palestinian Authority has embarked on a campaign to expunge Jewish history by relabeling Jewish holy sites as Muslim ones. But this battle over the religious identity of holy sites deserves more Western attention than it has gotten, because it’s a perfect example of why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has remained unsolvable for decades: The Jews are willing to share, but the Arabs aren’t.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron– one of the sites that UNESCO, at the PA’s request, recently declared exclusively Islamic – is a prime example. Under Israeli control, the tomb has been simultaneously an active synagogue and an active mosque for 44 years, a situation unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Most days of the year, it’s open to worshippers of both faiths; on a handful of Jewish and Muslim holy days, it’s open only to worshippers of the celebrating faith. At no point has Israel ever sought to make the site exclusively Jewish; it has willingly shared it with Palestinian Muslims.